Empower The Family
Educate, Empower, Prosper
Empowering young people (18-23) from disadvantaged areas with the key of education, so they can unlock barriers and prosper.
Our mission is to support young disadvantaged people (18-23) in Ireland, with the determination and ability, to successfully complete university.
How The Empower Journey started
In 2018, Deborah Somorin shared her very personal story on the Late Late show. Deborah spoke of her journey from homelessness to accounting to help raise funds for a homeless charity who had supported her at the time. Every time she shared her story at previous fundraisers and including this one, people asked: “what can we do to help other determined single parents change the trajectory of their economic situations?”
When you factor in the supply issue for childcare and housing there is no single organization, in Ireland, that a student who is also a single parent could apply to, to have both of those needs met. In comparison, in the UK, family student accommodation is a very common offering by universities. For example, the University of Edinburgh has 65 apartments available for family accommodation.
Call To Action: Deborah created an online petition the weekend of the Late late, to gauge the level of interest from the community of single parents for a project like this. That petition raised over 12 thousand signatures. We received hundreds of comments from people who felt this was a project that would have made or will make a significant difference in their lives. As a result, Empower the Family CLG gained philanthropic funding of ~ €517k and plan to open student accommodation for disadvantaged young people with an onsite creche.
A few months ago, we secured the support of the Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH) and Dublin City Council (DCC) for our project. With their support, we have gained Approved Housing Body (AHB) status with the Department of Housing. As an AHB we can now access the Capital Assistance Scheme to help fund the accommodation side of our project. You can find out more about the scheme here (page 8 and 9).
The board of Empower the Family decided that in light of the homelessness crisis being experienced by people in our target demographic, we should be providing more than 10 apartment units. We now plan to provide 20 apartments for single parents in university, with a creche on site. The creche will be funded by our founding donors through their very generous donations to date. We also now plan to provide 10 apartments for young people transitioning out of state care who are attending university, i.e. in aftercare.
We plan to build a collaborative and sustainable student community in the apartment complex and we are very close to securing a DCC owned site in Ballymun which will enable us to do that. We have built an incredible team which includes some of the best companies in Ireland and their principals. Due to the scale of the project expanding, we are now working towards delivering this project by September 2023. We will post project updates here and on our social media pages linked below.
Facts and Figures
'Education Is An Ornament In prosperity & A Refuge In Adversity.'- Aristotle
This table shows the number of students/pupils, in Ireland, who are also parents. The data shows that married/cohabiting moms and single moms represent the majority of parents in education. Given the poverty statistics for single parents, detailed below, we have chosen to focus on single parents (moms and dads) for our first location. We hope to provide family student accommodation to a wider demographic in our subsequent locations.
Source: CSO census data - Population Aged 15 Years and Over in Private Households Enumerated as Couples or Single Parents 2011 to 2016 (Number) by Principal Economic Status, Sex, Type of Family Unit and Census Year
The reality for single parents in Ireland...
"1 in 5 people in Ireland live in a one-parent family
One parent families have the highest consistent poverty rate of 24.6% of any group in Irish society
Those living in households with one adult and one or more children aged under 18 had the highest deprivation rate in 2016 at 50.1%"
"Childcare costs in Ireland are among the highest in the OECD. Single parents, as the sole carers of their children, are more strongly affected by these costs. They simply have no one else to bear the responsibility of caring for their children.
One Family stated in their submission to the Committee Affordable and accessible childcare and afterschool care are essential in-work supports which must be provided to enable lone parents to engage in the labour market. Families headed by a single parent who participate in the paid workforce, or are engaged in educational or job training programmes, require care of their children."
"Ireland has no state agency with responsibility for child maintenance payments
Parents are forced to seek payments through an adversarial and costly court system
Maintenance, when obtained, is deducted at a rate of 100% from rent supplement and 50% from other social welfare payment
Single parents in receipt of welfare are required to seek maintenance from the second parent
In Ireland, 35% of single parents are in receipt of child maintenance payments
In other jurisdictions such as Sweden, New Zealand and Canada, the state is involved in facilitating the transfer of maintenance to parents
In Sweden, if the parent fails to or cannot pay maintenance, the state provides the payment and recoups the money from the liable parent subject to their ability to pay"
Where else has this been done in the world?
"New Family Student Housing units and a new Early Education Services complex will support the educational needs of student families and faculty/staff alike" - University of California, Santa Cruz
Family student housing with an on-site creche provides an additional benefit to parents as highlighted by:
Berkeley University -
Other universities that provide family student accommodation:
The University of Edinburgh -
The New York University School of Law (NYU Law) -
“We want to support disadvantaged young people (18-23) in Ireland, with the determination and ability, to successfully complete university. We want to do this because it changes not only the trajectory of that woman/man’s life but it also changes the trajectory of their child’s life. My son Liam and I are living proof of this.
By creating role models in disadvantaged communities we also hope to change the trajectory of the lives of other young people, with/without children, who live within these communities.
We need you to help us to make that happen.”
- Deborah Somorin, Founder, Empower the Family
At 13 Deborah was homeless, at 14 she was pregnant and at 15 she was a mother to a son called Liam. At 25 Deborah is an assistant manager at PwC. Deborah completed an Accounting and Finance degree in DCU in 2014. She then went on to complete a Masters in Accounting in DCU in 2015 which helped earn her a place at PwC. She began sharing her story, in 2017, to help change the stigma attached with youth homelessness. Apart from founding Empower the Family, Deborah is also a board member on the board of directors for Chartered Accountants Support which supports members and students of Chartered Accountants Ireland. Deborah, a qualified chartered accountant, was listed on the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
Some media links:
Gary is Development Director with RGRE and was previously General Manager, Investment and Development with QIC/ GPT Australia, having worked there since 2014. Gary is currently guiding the Development Team of RGRE to realise; Salesforce Tower, a 530,000 sqft – 9 level Commercial office mega-campus for Salesforce plc, and 204 bed Hotel for Dalata plc. Spencer Place Residential (394 Unit PRS scheme and 100 bed Apart-Hotel) in Spencer Dock, Dublin 1. Facebook Mega Campus - Fibonacci Square, a 350,000 sq. ft. commercial office development, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. Waterfront CB9 – Dublin Dockland’s mixed use development lands within the Dublin Docklands, North Lotts SDZ. The gross development value of projects actively in development is in excess of €2.0B. Gary is a Chartered Surveyor and holds an Honors Degree in Quantity Surveying, Deakin University (AUS) and from Cambridge University (UK), the Investment Property Forum Cert (FSA 2 Accreditation), specialising in Global Property Investment.
Duncan is an experienced Project Manager with 25 years’ experience in the Social Housing and Social Economy sectors. Prior to moving to Ireland in 2003 Duncan worked in the public and private healthcare sectors managing a range of services and projects. He also worked for various Local Authorities in the Greater London region, managing large scale housing projects.
For the past 15 years Duncan has worked in the Social/Voluntary housing sector in Ireland, working at all levels from managing individual housing development projects (for families, older persons and people with physical and intellectual disabilities) to strategic level on a number of Boards of Management. Duncan was also previously a member of the Board of the Irish Council for Social Housing.
As well as working on housing projects Duncan has also managed a number of projects in the social enterprise sector. Duncan is currently working as a freelance consultant working with a range of social economy stakeholders and is a voluntary Board member of the Irish Social Enterprise Network.
Alice has a BA in Applied Social Science, is a qualified & experienced Social Worker and has an MSc (Mgt) Organisational & Strategic Management from Trinity College. She has over 30 years experience of working in the health and social services sector at senior management level with government departments, local authorities & the statutory and non-governmental sector in England, Scotland & Ireland. Her practice fields of knowledge and expertise include social inclusion, equality, human rights, child protection and mental health.
In the period 2000-2010 she worked for the Irish Health Services Executive as Assistant National Director for Social Inclusion before leaving and setting up Súil Eile consultancy. Súil Eile consultancy works with a wide range of organisations advising on organisational structure, strategy, funding streams and policy development.
Niall graduated from UCD with a law degree. He is currently the Google Finance Director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Niall previously worked at Vodafone as the Group Finance Operations Director.
Keelin currently works as a senior associate in Deals in PwC Dublin, specialising in M&A advisory. As a member of the Transaction Services team, she has worked on due diligence projects (buy side and sell side) advising Irish and international clients in a wide range of industries including hospitality, construction, healthcare, hospitality, and non-profit. She is a part qualified Chartered Accountant.
Prior to joining PwC she graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a first class honours degree in Law and Business, gaining experience in customer service, legal research and transaction services through work experience she completed alongside her studies.
Mary Marjoram has over 20 years experience running residential care homes in Ireland and nursing homes in the UK which she owns. She is also the chief operating officer of Dun na Nog. Mary is also Ciara’s mother.
Alan studied English Literature, Philosophy and Theology in All Hallows College (now DCU). Alan then went on to work in the field of social care for several years, managing Dun na Nog for a number of years.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs)
Empower the Family CLG is working towards accomplishing 10 out of 17 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). Specifically:
Goal 1 - No Poverty
Goal 3 - Good Health and Well-Being
Goal 4 - Quality Education
Goal 5 - Gender Equality
Goal 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
Goal 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
Goal 10 - Reduced Inequalities
Goal 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
Goal 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
Goal 13 - Climate Action
You can find out more about the goals here.
You can also find out more about Ireland's progress in achieving the goals here.
All available Voluntary National Reviews can be accessed here.